Despite the shooting in Orlando, the overall threat to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community in the US is unlikely to increase over the next six to 12 months. There is a baseline of anti-LGBT sentiment that will persist within conservative religious communities in the US, but this event is not an indicator of a larger anti-LGBT campaign sponsored or specifically staged by the Islamic State (IS). Nevertheless, LGBT event organizers are highly likely to increase security presence and measures at large venues, as well as upcoming LGBT pride events around the nation. Both pro- and anti-LGBT demonstrations, likely at government buildings and, to a lesser extent, LGBT events and vigils, may increase in coming weeks as national discussions about gun control, tolerance, and public safety unfold. National and local law enforcement will likely be in a heightened state of vigilance in an attempt to dissuade similar attacks. Despite rampant media speculation, the shooter's motivation for the attack is unlikely to be fully known for some time.
- The threat to the LGBT community is unlikely to increase.
- LGBT event security is highly likely to increase as a precaution.
- Demonstrations by pro- and anti-LGBT groups may increase in frequency at government buildings throughout the US; large-scale violence at rallies is unlikely.
Incident Background and Known Information
On the morning of June 12, at approximately 0200, a gunman opened fire at the Pulse nightclub, an LGBT-oriented venue, in Orlando, Florida. More than 200 people were at the nightclub. An off-duty police officer working as a security guard exchanged the first gunfire with the shooter at 0202, and by 0500, police had killed the shooter after a standoff. As of June 14, officials have confirmed that 49 people were killed in the attack, but cautioned that numerous individuals remained in either "critical" or "guarded" conditions, meaning the death toll could rise in coming days.
The shooter, a Muslim US male citizen born in New York in 1986 to recently immigrated parents, had been investigated twice by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), once in 2013 and again in 2014. The 2013 investigation was closed after 10 months, but the shooter was investigated the following year after he was found to have ties to a US citizen who conducted a suicide attack in Syria. Questions about the shooter's motivations remain, and new information is still coming to light. The attacker claimed allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) in a 911 conversation. On June 13, IS praised the shooter's actions, calling him "one of the soldiers of the Caliphate in America." FBI officials have yet to find any indication that the shooter was in direct contact with IS extremists.
The overall threat to the LGBT community in the US is unlikely to increase as a result of the shooting in Orlando, particularly in light of broadening legal and societal support, including the US Supreme Court ruling in June 2015 that allowed for the legalization and nationwide recognition of gay marriage.
June has the heaviest concentration of LGBT pride events around the US, and parades, rallies, and festivals can draw thousands of members and supporters of the LGBT community. As a proactive measure, LGBT event organizers are highly likely to increase security measures at upcoming events nationwide. Individuals planning to attend these events or patronize LGBT venues, including bars and nightclubs, should anticipate an increased security presence and scrutiny of bags. In some cases, venues may simply ban the carrying of bags while on the premises. Non-LGBT events and venues may increase security, as well, out of an abundance of caution, particularly as the gunman's motive has not been fully determined.
Furthermore, both pro- and anti-LGBT demonstrations could increase amid a resurgence of the debate on gun control and public safety. Demonstrations will likely occur at government buildings, and to a lesser extent, LGBT events and vigils. A list of upcoming LGBT events can be found here.
Although it is impossible to predict where and when the next incident may occur, there are measures individuals can take to reduce the risk of becoming involved, as well as strategies to assist recovery efforts if an attack occurs. iJET's Security Operations team offers the following advice for consideration:
- Identify a location away from the venue to meet, in the event an incident occurs.
- Consider enabling phone-locator services to a trusted individual.
While at the Venue
- Identify emergency exits and other means of egress.
- Maintain the capability to react (e.g. avoid excessive use of drugs or alcohol).
- Select seating near an exit and where a large portion of the venue can be observed (e.g. suspicious behaviors and unattended objects).
During the Incident
- If exits are blocked or inaccessible; hide, barricade the entry, and silence cellphones.
- If in immediate danger, disable aggressor with available items (e.g. fire extinguisher, table, bottle, chair, etc.) and encourage others to do so.
When law enforcement arrives:
- Avoid pointing, screaming, or yelling.
- Keep hands empty, out to your side, with fingers spread.
- Do not approach officers, and follow instructions from first responders.